What do children think when they play

Children naturally have a natural urge to move. Especially in kindergarten and elementary school age, there is only limited thought about sitting still. But even if this is sometimes exhausting for us adults and difficult to accept in some situations: The importance of movement for child development should not be underestimated.

Learning starts with movement

We adults like to see the topic of "learning" as something purely cognitive - that is, above all, as a mental issue in which it is important to formulate and consolidate thoughts. In fact, every learning starts with movement. For newborns, development begins with kicking, crawling, walking. The communication of the newborn is also non-verbal until further notice - and in addition to various sounds, a wide variety of movements play a decisive role. Movement is also necessary for the acquisition of language: in order to be able to articulate intelligible sounds, lips, tongue, etc. must be brought into the right position.

In fact, movement is so central to human development that cognitive development, i.e. intellectual learning, cannot be viewed in isolation from it. If you look at the evolutionary history, it is noticeable that the two go hand in hand with each other: the more pronounced the motor skills of our ancestors, the greater the intellectual performance. In particular, the skill of making and using tools with the hands led to the growth of the brain areas responsible for this, which in turn formed the basis for the development of a higher level of consciousness. The same applies to the language center, which is not only responsible for understanding abstract formulations, but also provides the impetus to set our speech tools in motion.

Movement and play promote brain functions

Not least from dementia research we know how important movement is for brain function. A study by the University of Magdeburg was able to show that regular dance training helps to maintain important cognitive functions such as memory, alertness and attention. Dancing proved to be particularly effective here - also in comparison to a control group who concentrated on endurance sports such as walking or jogging. The researchers suspect that the playful nature of dance training in particular has a positive effect. After all, the usual standard and Latin American dances offer a lot of individual freedom in implementing the steps and figures as well as in the interaction with the dance partner.

From an evolutionary point of view, it is also noticeable that learning is often playful. Because not only human children play. This behavior can also be observed in other mammals. It is particularly evident in dogs, cats, horses and of course monkeys. But why play at all? After all, valuable life energy is consumed and you run the risk of not being able to perceive the environment to a limited extent, which makes you more susceptible to hostile attacks.

Playing has a high utility value

The bottom line, however, is that evolution has obviously made the decision: it's worth it. Because the more developed a living being and the more complex the central nervous system is, the more pronounced the play instinct is. The reasons: On the one hand, physical functions such as endurance, coordination, strength and motor skills are trained during play - so it is movement training. On the other hand, games fulfill an important social function both in the animal kingdom and in humans. Roles and behavioral patterns of various kinds are tried out - in a framework outside of the otherwise applicable rules. If there are confrontations during the game, it is still possible to continue living together in the group without any problems. Play is therefore also an important form of communication training. In particular, playing also promotes the formation of synapses in the brain, i.e. cross-connections and interconnections.

One thing is also certain: playful learning is far more effective, especially with more complex content, than trying to convey knowledge with pressure. The fear of bad grades may lead to an increased willingness to do intensive research. The knowledge acquired in this way, however, has a shockingly short shelf life - usually not much longer than shortly after the decisive exam. However, the situation is completely different with knowledge where the learning process was experienced positively and with joy. Not only do you keep things like that in your head much better and longer, the transfer to everyday requirements is also easier. The result: We can apply knowledge acquired in this way much better in everyday life.

It is true that brain research is only just beginning on many points and the various functions of the brain have by no means been finally deciphered. Most researchers, however, are certain that how something is learned makes a significant difference. If this is done in a playful way and if movement may also have played a role, completely different synapses and cross-connections form in the brain than if knowledge is only conveyed linearly and possibly with pressure.